KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — In Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s money laundering trial today, the prosecution questioned how the purchase of two bungalows worth a total of RM5.9 million in an “elite” residential neighbourhood could be said to be charitable.
The prosecution highlighted that the bungalows’ purchase had used funds that originated from millions of ringgit that businessmen had purportedly donated for religious and charitable purposes, but suggested that merely adding on a surau or Muslim prayer hall in one of the bungalows would not be enough to justify Ahmad Zahid’s alleged “manipulation” of funds.
The prosecution had said this while arguing why the High Court should call Ahmad Zahid to enter his defence over 27 money laundering charges.
One of the money laundering charges involves Ahmad Zahid’s alleged giving of instructions to buy two bungalow lots in Country Heights, Kajang for RM5.9 million using a cheque from law firm Lewis & Co and with the funds alleged to be proceeds from unlawful activities.
Previously, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers said he should not be prosecuted for this alleged offence despite confirming that he had instructed for the purchase of the two bungalows, arguing that this was because the RM5.9 million was allegedly not proven to be from illegal funds.
Donations of RM5 million and RM2 million respectively from businessmen Junaith Asharab Md Shariff and Mubarak Hussain Akhtar Husin were placed into two fixed deposits of the same sums, with these fixed deposits worth RM7 million then uplifted or withdrawn by Lewis & Co to be used to issue the RM5.9 million cheque for the bungalows’ purchase.
Today, the prosecution sought to show that the funds for the RM5.9 million purchase of the bungalows were actually unlawful in origins, claiming that the businessmen’s donations were not genuine donations for charitable purposes.
Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong highlighted how the two businessmen “coincidentally” shared the same purpose of their donations being for the building of a mosque and tahfiz school in Bagan Datuk, but challenged this including by highlighting that Mubarak Hussain had also previously testified in court that the donation was for Sekolah Menengah Ulul Albab in Melaka.
“The truth is, the ‘donation’ from Junaith Asharab and Mubarak Hussain had been used to purchase two units of bungalow located in Country Heights, Kajang and not to Sekolah Menengah Ulul Albab, Melaka or construction of mosque or tahfiz school in Bagan Datuk,” Harris argued today.
Harris further argued that the funds were not actually used for charity or for the secondary school or for mosques or tahfiz schools.
When High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah noted that one of the bungalow lots had been said to have been converted to a surau, Harris agreed but argued that the money was used to buy bungalows and the subsequent conduct of adding on religious functions such as a surau would not “justify the conduct of the accused in manipulating the money”
“What is so noble and charitable in buying bungalows in elite areas such as Country Heights, Kajang? Simply renovating it to have surau, prayer hall will not turn your bad intention into a good one,” he said, further claiming that such renovations were an afterthought,
Harris claimed that the renovation works had only started after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had made investigations on the matter.
Among other things, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had previously also claimed that the RM5.9 million purchase of the two bungalows was a donation from Yayasan Akalbudi — a charitable foundation where Ahmad Zahid is a trustee — to Ahmad Zahid’s family’s foundation Yayasan Al-Falah, and that such a donation was permissible and lawful.
Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers have also claimed that the law firm Lewis & Co is a trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi.
But the prosecution today suggested that the law firm — which had been entrusted by Ahmad Zahid with 92 cheques totalling RM76.9 million over two years — had been instructed to place funds into fixed deposits as part of an alleged money laundering scheme purportedly orchestrated by Ahmad Zahid.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president — is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.
The prosecution is expected to present further arguments on why Ahmad Zahid should not be released from the money-laundering charges and why he should be called to enter his defence on these charges.